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Five worthless opinions: The Chevrolet Dual in Detroit

The Verizon IndyCar Series floated onto Belle Isle in Detroit and, with promoter Roger Penske’s help, managed to put on two races that once again highlighted the yin and yang of IndyCar as we know it.  Here are some waterlogged WO’s (worthless opinions) to bring some sunshine to your day.

1.  Andretti Autosport went 1-2 in Saturday’s race with Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti.  Strategy of any kind makes a race more compelling.  The decision to stay on slicks and stretch fuel as the rain was coming in was flawless, as was Marco’s aggressiveness in staying out longer than the team wanted so he could build his lead.  Munoz’s later fuel stop allowed him to pass Marco for the win, but it was gutsy racing from both Andretti drivers.  Take a chance, win a race.

2.  What was great about Sunday’s race?  The obvious was the small teams up on the podium.  Sebastien Bourdais, a beast in the wet for KVSH Racing, held off Takuma Sato, another beast in the wet for A.J. Foyt Racing, for the win.  The final podium spot was Graham Rahal, a beast in general this year for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.  Something less obvious was the fact that it was a Chevy and two Hondas vying for the win and nobody really noticed.  It should be the drivers competing for the win, not the motors.  I am sure that Honda is proud of sweeping eight out of the top nine spots on Sunday, but Will Power taking out Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya running out of fuel, and Scott Dixon getting wrecked by teammate Charlie Kimball had a little something to do with Chevy’s bad day.

3.  Wet socks were the order of the day for both Saturday and Sunday, as was the cold.  Rain and temperature are a strategist’s nightmares.  Will the race go the distance?  Will it be timed?  When do we go from rains to slicks and slicks to rains?  Do we stay out for position or get fuel?  A hard-core fan is following all of these possibilities.  A casual fan is wallowing in them.  One thing that is extremely difficult to follow at a street race is strategy.  If you have a radio or scanner, it helps tremendously. At home, viewers depend on the broadcasters, who are at the mercy of their monitors and their directors.  Truthfully, radio does a much better job of explaining strategy.  In any case, being able to follow team strategy just makes the racing better.  Not shilling here, but if you have a Verizon phone, download the IndyCar 15 app.  Radio broadcast, team radio communications, and other goodies…all free.

4.  Speaking of strategies, Jon Beekhuis (@JonBeekhuis) conducted a Twitter Q and A after the race that was illuminating.  He explained timed races, discussed tire selection, and interpreted rules and penalties.  My question is this: Why is this only taking place on Twitter after the race?  All these are topics that fans and viewers want and need to understand.  Much of the consternation of being an IndyCar fan comes the esoteric nature of rules, penalties, and strategy.  A new fan to the series needs a primer on these topics.  If not, then rain shortened races like Saturday and Sunday confuse fans instead of excite them.  Beekhuis takes these topics, and without dumbing them down or using props, clearly and cleanly explains them.  Use and promote this man on pre-race, YouTube, and Twitter!  Engage the fans!  We are not stupid, just uneducated.

5.  The rules and race control are in the news, as always.  I will give race control this, they are NOT making calls that affect the outcome of races.  Whether this leads to issues on the track or not remains to be seen.  Graham Rahal moved all the way over on the track to block Takuma Sato on Sunday and defended this by saying blocking is legal as long as you don’t move in response to another driver.  Fair enough.  Still called for blocking, though.  He was required to give up his position to Sato.  That’s a penalty I can live with.  His race was not ruined, just his spot on the podium.  Juan Pablo Montoya complained loudly that Sato jumped the start.  If he did, there was no penalty.  I am not sure that probation and points penalties handed out on Wednesdays will deter rule breaking, but so far a light hand has seemed to work.  I do wonder if the rolled-up-newspaper threat to drivers will be ignored by the drivers like it is ignored by dogs everywhere, though.

In honor of the doubleheader weekend, I considered a doubleheader set of WO’s (worthless opinions) but decided against it.  The two days of bad weather in Detroit this weekend was punishment enough.

Ten Worthless Opinions – Detroit Grand Prix Edition

Holy hell, how do you even start the list from Belle Isle.  I normally follow a semi-chronological order, but for this…uh…CF, I will make an exception.

1.  The track falls apart.  Let me rephrase that – Roger Penske’s track falls apart.  I acknowledge that Belle Isle is not really RP’s possession.  With Detroit’s property market today, it’s obviously better to lease than own, and you expect RP to always make the best financial choice.  But this is HIS race.  Kudos, though, to the powers-that-be for getting the surface fixed for the sprint to the finish.  I just did not expect Roger Penske to follow up a great 500 by giving IndyCar this black eye, particularly after his comments regarding Randy Bernard this week.  Did you read between the lines?  The Captain said it was business as usual with INDYCAR CEO’s, and he did not support a change in the middle of the season.  The italics are mine.  How does it feel to be human like the rest of us, sir?  The hoi polloi salute you in Will Power fashion, Captain.

2.  Beaux Barfield owned this race.  He did not make a knee-jerk decision after the track came apart.  He let the workers finish the job and sent Tony Kanaan and Will Power out to look at it.  He did not wilt under the pressure of the TV camera.  He spoke to the media and explained exactly what he planned to do, even if that was to just wait.  He did not allow the teams to switch tire compounds from the ones they were using when the race was red flagged, a very fair decision.  And he stopped teams from doing so, much to their chagrin.  It makes me wonder if people got away with stuff like that in the past.  It rewarded the teams that made the tire decision earlier.  He decided to race until lap 60, creating a 15 lap sprint.  Take a bow, Beaux.

3.  I cannot believe that Randy Bernard’s Twitter comment moved down to #3 on my WO’s (worthless opinions).  In the pre-race, Marty Reid made an interesting comment (Yes, THAT Marty Reid).  He said Randy’s tweet was either a stroke of genius or a big mistake.  I go with stroke of genius.  It was a throw down of epic proportions.  Whoever the owner was, he cannot come forward because it proves Randy right.  He just has to shut up.  Randy wins.  If the owner does come forward, he shows himself to be a sneaky shit who is working to the detriment of the series.  And Randy wins.  Regardless of the final reckoning, Randy Bernard has taken the series forward with aggressive marketing and a relentless work ethic.  He has made mistakes, but “getting after it” is not one of them.  At Detroit, he faced the media and said he was just getting the facts out.  He also said he does not work for the owners; he works for the IMS board of directors.  Here’s the translation: “Kiss my ass.  I don’t work for you.”  Stay tuned.  This story is just starting.

4.  Normally, only a driver or two get “Visoed.”  At Detroit, almost the whole field got it.  What’s the problem with racing at Belle Isle?  Simply put, the problem is EJ Viso.  He can hold up the entire field because there is no place for an IndyCar to pass at Belle Isle.  We follow up a GREAT Indy 500 with this pig.  Put all the lipstick you want on it, Belle Isle is still a porker.  Either create some passing zones or follow Indy with an oval.

5.  Here are some plugs.  The Verizon IndyCar App really worked for me this weekend.  I listened to the radio broadcast on it (it worked, as opposed to, followed timing and scoring, and listened to some team/driver communication.  I was not displeased.  Also, if you do not subscribe to TrackSide Online, stop reading this right now and subscribe.  For $22, you get TSO’s coverage of the race on site, and TSO sends out every press release from the teams and the series.  Invaluable.

6.  Once again, I will provide my consulting totally free to IndyCar.  Add on-board starters RIGHT NOW.  Do you realize how many full course yellows could be avoided?  No, I don’t know, but it’s a bunch.  High tech series, my ass.  I’m going to start charging for this stuff sooner or later.

7.  Don’t worry, ABC.  I didn’t forget you.  To be honest, I liked the short pre-race.  It was just a few interviews and a recap of Indy with a little Randy Bernard gossip.  Nothing  bores me more than the interminable NASCAR “Oh my god, this racing series is so spectacular we just can’t stop talking about it” pre-race blather that all the networks foist upon us.  Let’s get the race started.  Luckily, ABC was able to save some of that stuff for the red flag time.  Of course, ABC’s thinking was probably “Let’s not waste any time, effort, or money on this series.”  I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they really just wanted to go racing.

8.  During the stoppage, ABC aired a segment about speed and danger.  I thought it was well done and accurate.  It is absolutely part of racing, and the drivers interviewed acknowledged it.  Twitterland responded that it was in “bad taste” or “too soon.”  Sorry, folks.  Danger is inherent in this profession and cannot be ignored.  Pull your ostrich heads out of the sand and accept the truth: speed is dangerous, and it attracts interest.  We watch because the cars and drivers are on the edge.  I will suggest that is the same reason the drivers race.  That’s who they are.  And for better or worse, that’s who we are.

9.  During the race, I turned down the ABC coverage and listened to the radio broadcast.  What a difference.  The radio broadcasters made the race seem exciting.  They told the listeners who was trying to pass and where.  Passes did take place in the pack.  It’s just that TV only reports on what it sees with its cameras, and they NEVER see passes.  Radio reports what the broadcasters see with their eyes.  And that’s a huge difference.  Radio has people reporting from around the track.  ABC has Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear tethered to a monitor, reporting only what they see at any given moment.  There has to be a better way.

10.  All in all, it was an interesting week and race.  Randy Bernard fights back.  An online petition to keep Randy pops ups (sign it here).  Robin Miller names names (read it here).  And check out Tony Johns’ “The IndyCar Fan White Paper” at Pop Off Valve (read it here).  The owners back down publicly, but you can assume the smear campaign will continue.  Randy intimated that the China race is not 100% and that he has a back-up plan.  Detroit’s infrastructure continues to fall apart, as does the momentum of the IZOD IndyCar Series.  IndyCar is like the 1971 Mafia comedy The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.  You had better work on your aim, guys.

There you go, another semi-lucid set of opinions called “Ten Worthless Opinions.”  I’m not sure they even make sense to me.

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